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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : English Literature

Postgraduate Course: Critical Theory: Issues and Debates (ENLI11101)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course will introduce students to a range of theoretical issues and debates that have been influential in the humanities, with a particular focus on developments within and around literary studies. It is specifically designed to be suitable both for beginners and more advanced students. For those who have little or no prior experience of working with critical theory, it offers a groundwork for future exploration; for those already well-versed in the discussion of theory, it will offer the opportunity to broaden and deepen your understanding of relevant debates. The course will also be valuable for any student looking for a framework within which to reflect on your own critical practice, or wanting to develop a broader understanding of twentieth century intellectual history.
Course description Critical theory is a living tradition of interdisciplinary enquiry which has been highly influential across the humanities and social sciences since the 1970s. This course will provide an introduction to a range of key issues and debates within the field of critical theory as it relates to the humanities, and to literary studies in particular. Students will be introduced to a selection of twentieth century debates which have shaped the dominant paradigms of contemporary humanities scholarship, touching on topics such as the definition of the literary artwork, the validity of interpretation, the role of the critic and the nature of historical understanding. The course will also explore the challenges to these paradigms posed from within the tradition of critical theory, looking in particular at the complex legacy of both the Frankfurt School and ┬┐post-structuralist┬┐ thought.

The course will begin with exploration and discussion of key concepts and definitions, an introductory overview of the development of critical theory in the twentieth century, and examples of the continuing impact of critical theory within contemporary methodological debates in literary and/or cultural studies. In the first weeks of the course you will also be introduced to key skills in researching and analysing key works of literary and critical theory. The second section of the course will focus on case studies of influential theoretical texts, and will aim to foster the ability to read and understand primary texts in critical theory, rehearsing both analytical and research skills. The course will conclude with reflection on the relationship between critical theory and your own critical practice.

You will read a combination of primary and secondary texts in literary and critical theory, and through individual study and autonomous group work you will develop the skills required for the critical analysis of theoretical and argumentative texts. Through this combination of research, analysis and discussion the course will aim to build your confidence in working with critical theory so that you are equipped with the skills you need to explore theoretical approaches that you may encounter elsewhere in your programme of study, or that you may wish to draw on in your dissertation. In class discussion and in your own reflection you will be encouraged to connect the ideas you encounter to your own critical practice and to broader debates about methodology.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Auditing: There are strict conditions attached to auditing this course, owing to the small class sizes and the focus on group discussion. Students are welcome to audit, but they must be able to guarantee a) to attend all the weekly seminars; b) to complete the required reading for all seminars; c) to attend small-group study meetings (an additional 1 hour per week); and d) to take a full part in class discussion and small-group work. If you wish to audit please email the course organiser with confirmation that your participation in the course has been approved by your Programme Director or Supervisor, and that you are able to commit the time required to play a full part in the course.
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2021/22, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  30
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 196 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) The course will be assessed via the submission of two written assignments: a short mid semester essay (1500 words) and the completion of a final course essay (2500 words). The assessments will be weighted at 30% and 70% respectively. Submission dates will be week 6 and then the standard school submission date for option courses (i.e. week 12) (TBC before start of course).
Feedback Written feedback will be provided on both assignments. The course tutor will be available for consultation and discussion in weekly office hours.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Construct clear and coherent arguments which demonstrate critical understanding of principal theoretical concepts and debates in the literary humanities.
  2. Critically analyse works of literary and critical theory, situate them within intellectual and historical contexts, and reflect on their contemporary relevance.
  3. Conduct independent research into theoretical issues and debates, critically appraising the point of view, relevance and reliability of sources.
  4. Evaluate and reflect on the application of theoretical concepts and approaches to their own critical practice.
  5. Work together with peers to critically analyse theoretical issues and debates, and collaborate in the communication of results to others.
Reading List
Primary reading:

Primary reading for 2021-22 will be drawn from the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, supplemented by chapters and/or articles available electronically via the University of Edinburgh's library resources.

Indicative list of authors.

Specific texts to be studied will change each year. An indicative list of authors whose work would be discussed might include: Louis Althusser, Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, Homi Bhabha, Pierre Bourdieu, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Frederic Jameson, Hans Robert Jauss, Annette Kolodny, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Course organiserDr Alex Thomson
Tel: (0131 6)50 3058
Course secretaryMiss Kara McCormack
Tel: (0131 6)50 3030
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